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Vague Political Speech Restrictions on Government Property

There’s a gun-related case in the Arizona Court of Appeals today that deals with overly vague content-based speech restrictions on government property. The Goldwater Institute and ACLU are siding with pro-Second Amendment folks who submitted various advertisements for the Phoenix mass transit system only to see some of them turned down on content restrictions against politically-related advertising and others with similar messages and links accepted.

It’s a case that isn’t just about considering federal First Amendment protections/restrictions on speech, but also may define the state’s constitutional limits on the freedom of speech. The ACLU has apparently argued that state courts have never ruled on the issue of content-based restrictions on government property or provided legal tests to determine when such regulations may be allowed.

The pro-speech/gun side is arguing that the rules are so vague and arbitrary that a reasonable person could not be expected to know when their advertisements may be approved or might be turned down. Attorneys for the city claim that if they can’t have these vague rules that apparently only city bureaucrats understand, then they will be forced into an “all-or-nothing approach — allow no advertising or allow all advertising.”

Know Your Rights, Even When the ACLU May Not

Yesterday, a story popped up on Photography is Not a Crime (another great blog highlighting rights of the law-abiding that are frequently trampled) about a low level ACLU representative getting angry at a photographer for taking photos on a public Massachusetts street that she just happened to be working on that day.

The girl decked out in her ACLU gear didn’t just inform the photographer that she’d rather not have him take her photo, she tried to claim trumped up charges that he was engaged in a criminal act by taking a photo that just happened to have her in it.

This doesn’t surprise me coming from ACLU representatives because I witnessed a group of ACLU “volunteer observers” at the 2004 Pittsburgh NRA meeting trying to intimidate NRA supporters who were snapping photos of the anti-gun protests taking place on the public space outside of the convention center with similar threats.

One girl in particular, probably an older college student or recent graduate, was particularly aggressive in claiming that gun rights supporters had no right to take any photos at all on the public sidewalk and that she would report us to the police if she thought we took any photos of her sitting on the sidewalk.

I just point out this story because it’s useful to understand that the underlings who may be representing ACLU in some form at any gun-related events may try to use the same false charges that photography in public places is a crime against gun owners to try and intimidate them from documenting an event or participating one way or the other in public protests. I have never seen another ACLU volunteer observer team at an NRA meeting again, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen again.

It’s Not Just the Policies, It’s Your People

Reading a bit more about the situation in California that broke yesterday with a girl being ordered to take off her NRA t-shirt by a public school official, it appears that there are consistent issues of late with this particular school and its officials.

The first piece of evidence is the NRA shirt case, where the district now admits that the shirt never violated any policies at all. However, these are the same people who specifically wrote the policy to state that if anything a student wears is declared “divisive or offensive to a staff member,” then it is banned. In other words, expressing an opinion contrary to any staff member in the school on your t-shirt is banned for being divisive. Needless to say, that’s not remotely constitutional since it gives staff the power to ban political expression they consider divisive or anything they don’t like for personal reasons.

The same school, apparently under a different principal, but largely the same staff, had to apologize last year and undergo more training on policies when they endorsed “Seniores” and “Señoritas” events that encouraged the overwhelmingly white school kids to dress up to fit ethnic stereotypes. Some kids apparently opted to dress as gang members and pregnant chicks. Gee, who couldn’t see that kind of poor decision-making coming from a mile away? But the school district promised that more training and more policies would keep the school out of trouble.

While the two incidents seem pretty different, there is one common theme to both of them. Perhaps it’s time to admit that policies aren’t the only problem here. Perhaps it is time to admit that the people incapable of making reasonable decisions, even after they’ve been given all of these policies and all of this training, are the problem. In fact, I would say that the fact the new principal, appointed after the “Seniores” and “Señoritas” snafu made headlines, is the one defending the unconstitutional t-shirt policy, it really just goes to show that no one in the school really learned anything in all of their “training.”

Sadly, even if the school district leaders did admit that no amount of training will fix the situation, there’s not really much they would do to change it.

A Right Unused …

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before?

Much like a muscle that atrophies with disuse, any right that goes unexercised for many years devolves into a privilege, and eventually can even be redefined as a crime.

Is this really true? I haven’t exercised my Third Amendment rights ever in my lifetime. I don’t know too many other folks who have either. Yet the Third Amendment is doing so well, the government hardly ever violates it. Additionally, despite a dearth of case law, those which have come up ruled pretty decisively in favor of the right of the citizen. Further, no one seriously argues that the Third Amendment is wrong and ought to be repealed. The Third Amendment is doing pretty well despite falling into disuse!

Now, let’s take a look from the other side. People exercise the right of home ownership pretty regularly, and we trek about with our persons, papers and personal effects on a regular basis. Yet it takes the barest of any pretext for the police to search the ever loving crap out of your personage and vicinity, because most searches have been deemed “reasonable” by the courts. If the Second Amendment ends up being in as poor a shape as the 4th Amendment, by the time all this is said and done, I’ll cry.

I think this is a eloquent way to simply a complex issue to the point where it’s a pleasing thing to think, but doesn’t reflect reality. The answer is the loss of rights is a lot more complex than whether you use it or not, and our community shouldn’t delude itself into thinking otherwise.

Charges Against WV NRA T-Shirt Teen Dropped?

According to a very initial report from WOWK, it seems the criminal charges against the West Virginia teenager who wore an NRA t-shirt to school have been dropped.

As Sebastian said when I informed him of this update, the news of the dropped charges should have come with an apology letter that acknowledges they never should have brought them in the first place. Obviously, that’s unlikely.

I was hearing reports about attempts to organize rallies, and I’m sure we’re not the only ones who highlighted that the judge who banned the media from the courthouse in this case and the district attorney who oversees the two prosecutors who not only brought charges, but then tried to silence the boy and his family, are elected. They can still be sent home during the next election.

Charging Reporters with the Crime of Journalism


A government-approved contract staffer decided to release just enough information to give people the heads up that there is a surveillance program happening that many people may not find to be constitutional. Yet, the media who so obviously support Obama decide that the reporter who broke the story must be punished for the crime of reporting something unfavorable to the government.

In West Virginia, we see something similar happening when it comes to reporting the story of a prosecutor going after a minor for wearing a pro-Second Amendment t-shirt. When the tide turns against the government agent, the judge orders the reporter barred from the courthouse to keep her from filing a petition on behalf of the press in a gag order hearing and the bailiff enforcing the ban threatened the reporter with arrest after reaching to take her camera and microphone. The prosecutor apparently claimed that the state was trying to silence the teen’s legal team and family for their own good.

Dear West Virginia freedom supporters: The judge who ordered the media banned from the courthouse is elected. You can fix this and send him a message about limits on his power. The prosecutor overseeing the two staff attorneys who insist that court orders silencing defendants are the best things for society and individuals is also elected, and his name is John W. Bennett. There you go; you have tools to make positive changes in your local community. (h/t to Miguel for the link on the WV case)

Court Tosses Out Colorado Magazine Restrictions

Sadly, not the magazines you were thinking.

Your Friday Laugh

Even the most jaded should be able to find a little humor in this take on the massive NSA data collection:

Spoofs like this are great ways to spread larger ideas.

The New Realities

Jim Geraghty made this remark in light of the NSA spying leaks: “Of course, you can do the right thing and still break the law.”

Meanwhile, Sesame Street debuts an education kit for helping kids deal with an incarcerated parent.

Clearly, there’s not such an epidemic of questionable spying document dumping in this country that these two things are directly related, but I don’t think they are completely unrelated, either. It’s a sad day when we pretty much joke about how practically everyone is a criminal these days because they’ve probably cross some regulation they never even knew existed.

It reminds me of a Kindle book my mom bought me that I really need to read soon: Trapped: When Acting Ethically is Against the Law

Unfortunately, since the answers to these issues don’t fit into a soundbite, don’t expect any serious discussions about the topic from our political leaders.

This, 1000x This!

Tam’s reaction to the dodge that NSA domestic snooping is just peachy because Bush did it too:

This is exactly the kind of crap that had civil libertarians so disgusted with the previous administration that they decided to give Team Donk a chance, and look what they got in exchange: A bad punchline of an Executive branch. “They told me if I voted for McCain that secret intel organizations would Hoover up all the phone records of every American, and they were right!” Har-de-har-har. It was funny the first thirty-seven times.

And what’s the Mainstream Media doing? Hiding smoking guns like a lovestruck teenager for her gangster boyfriend. If you guys were manning the bridge in ’73, you’d be doing special investigative reports on why security guards should mind their own business when they see a taped door lock. It could be taped for national security reasons! And George Bush taped locks, too!

It always annoys me greatly when people bring up the “Bush did it!” excuse, like that’s some kind of “Get out of Jail Free” card they can play — like everyone else is the same kind of partisan hack as people who assert this defense seem to be. Well, you know, I thought Bush was an asshole too, so what’s your point? In fact, given Bush’s approval ratings at the end of his second term, I’m fairly certain I’m not alone in this sentiment.

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